“Oh, I don’t know; I just know,” is no answer when you’re asked how you know your event was a success. The time, effort, to say nothing of the money involved in holding an event, begs the question of whether it was all worth it. Having invested as much as you did, you have the right to know by what right your event management company says, “Our event was a huge success.”
The most straightforward method of determining the success of any event is to refer to the event’s objectives. No event planning company worth its salt goes into an event without objectives, which direct an event’s every detail. A simple example might be, if an event aimed to give out 10,000 samples of a brand-new product, and 10,000 samples were distributed, then mission accomplished.
But event objectives aren’t always that straightforward, and to help clients appreciate the value of their events, the event management industry does have metrics for measuring event success. Not coincidentally, these metrics generally coincide with clients’ own event objectives.
While they vary between companies or verticals (e.g. a technology expo versus a big city Fashion Week), the standards are as follows:
A successful event is well-attended.
And when we say “well-attended”, we don’t mean your friends and family, even if they do show up in droves. When a goodly number of the people you intended to attend, do, then you know your event is headed in the right general direction. What that goodly number is, is affected by factors such as free admission or the size or exclusivity of the target market (e.g. Ph.D.’s for an anthropology convention).
A successful event brings home the bacon.
After all, there’s just no arguing with hard currency—arguably the most obvious indicator of an event’s success is how much it made in terms of ticket sales, sponsorships or signed contracts. When tallied against your expenses, your revenue should be able to justify your event.
But numbers that don’t work out (i.e. event revenue did not exceed expenses, or barely broke even) don’t necessarily mean the event was a flop. These numbers do vary between events, as some events, for instance, are free of charge to attend and so obviously do not consider ticket sales as a key performance indicator.
But an event that does consider such figures and that may not seem to have sales on its side, might have succeeded in other ways. The event might have lagged in ticket sales, for instance, but might have rallied in the number of solid leads generated. An event that also might have been attended by a relatively small number of people, might have had a sizeable contract signing or two.
A successful event is on time.
This indicator goes together with the preceding metric. If everything that went into your event, from the planning down to the execution was run exactly as scheduled, then you can be sure you did not spend unnecessarily on extra hours, and that your event budget was spent efficiently.
A successful event is all over social media.
And when we say an event has saturated every platform that matters, we don’t just mean because you or your event management company put it there. Successful events are liked, shared, followed, retweeted, commented on and discussed—even by people who weren’t asked to, long before and even long after the event is over. Hubspot regards activity on Twitter as particularly telling.
Bonus points for events that manage to get talked about on traditional media, as well, especially for events with brand awareness as a main objective.
A successful event has happy participants.
You don’t have to wait for the results of the post-event survey—just looking or interacting with enough people on the ground can give you a pretty good picture, more so if they don’t know you’re behind the event. Are they having fun? Are they doing what you expected them to do? Are they taking selfies? Surveys are excellent, of course, but first-hand information can be particularly useful.
A successful event results in stronger ties.
You’ve interacted with a whole lot of different people to get this event off the ground—on top of your event management company, there are your sponsors, your suppliers, the media and of course, your event participants and the public. Has your event strengthened your relationship with each of these groups? Will they be raring to work with you again, or go to another one of your events?
A successful event opens doors.
One of, if not the main reason for holding an event is to find new business opportunities. These may come in the form of potential customers, fans or leads, or being able to expand your network to work with other people. An event may even be so successful as to lead to another event.
So, your event was a success?
Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. While it is often said that we should learn from our mistakes, learning from our resounding successes is just as invaluable. Post-mortems are an important part of event management regardless of the outcome. They enable you to not just steer clear of what didn’t work out, but to replicate and even build on the success of what did.
Take your event’s social media success, for example, as an opportunity to take a closer look at your target market—what they’re saying about your event, and your company in general. You’ll be able to amplify the effectivity of your event by using their photos and comments in your own posts, for instance, or repackage them in a newsletter sent to an event-goers-only mailing list.
You’ll be also able to pick up insights that may not only help you out with your next event, but improve your overall branding or communications—or even give you ideas for your products or services.